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Soldotna music​ series amplified with another ​three-year grant

Soldotna's 2022 series opened with Medium Build on June 1. The last concert this summer is Matt Hopper & The Roman Candles, on Aug. 31.
Sabine Poux
Soldotna's 2022 series opened with Medium Build on June 1.

At the peak of the summer, Soldotna Creek Park emanates a sea of sound as anglers, musicians and market-goers all savor their time in the midsummer sun.

The park is quieter these days, since the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce wrapped up its summer concert series for the 2022 season last month. The end of the season also marked the end of a three-year grant to bring live music to the park each week.

But music will be back next year — and the year after that, and the year after that. The Levitt Foundation recently awarded Soldotna another $90,000 Levitt AMP grant to keep holding weekly concerts over the next three years, said Shanon Davis with the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce

"And that’s going to take us through 2025 for music in the park," she said.

The Levitt Foundation awards grants to small communities across the country so they can hold free concerts in public spaces.

Soldotna has been a recipient of the grant since 2018. It's among nearly 40 communities nationwide currently receiving funding through the program and is the only one in the state — Anchorage has been a grantee in the past, and Homer is in the process of applying for its own grant. (The application from the Homer Council on the Arts is currently up for a vote.)

For its own series, the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce has historically brought in bands from around Alaska, as well as some from the Lower 48, pairing the concerts with the Soldotna Wednesday Markets at the park.

Davis said the new grant, awarded last month, budgets $5,000 more to the series each year. She said that will help with travel costs for some out-of-state bands that they’ve been eyeing.

"The 5,000 will honestly probably help to bring two new bands that we’ve been wanting to bring but haven’t been able to," she said. "And so we’re pretty excited about bringing new talents to the area."

When the new three-year grant is up, Soldotna will be able to apply twice more.

"During that time, we’re really looking forward to continuing to flesh out the program and make sure it’s sustainable," she said.

Davis said they set a record with attendance at the park this year, with an average of 1,500-plus attendees every Wednesday.

She said it’s important to pair the growth of the series with that of the infrastructure that supports it, like the plan to revamp Soldonta’s riverfront and an expansion of local parking options.

Parking in particular has been a stressor as the series has grown. Local businesses have had to steer drivers away from their private lots as the spots at the park have filled up on busy nights.

The City of Soldotna is working on adding about 70 parking spaces in front of the Aspen Hotel. The city council greenlit funds for that project and is going out to bid this winter.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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